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Danny O'Neil covers the Seahawks for The Seattle Times.

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January 15, 2008 12:08 PM

Dollars and sense: Shaun Alexander

Posted by Danny O'Neil

Here at The Seattle Times, we got out our scalpels in Tuesday's paper and dissected the running. I tried to frame the questions the Seahawks must answer in improving the rushing game in a news story right here, columnist Jerry Brewer provided his perspective on what needs to be done in his column here.

Any question of what to do about the rushing offense gets back to Shaun Alexander and the financial specifics. Beware. What follows is a highly nerdy description of the financial specifics of the whole transaction in which terms like pro-ration and post-June 1 cuts will be used. So get out your slide rule as we delve into the salary-cap-onomics of the NFL.

Start with this qualifier. This is a hypothetical exercise. The Seahawks have given no public indication that any decisions have been made on his future. However, the salary-cap math does show the decision Seattle is facing.

Start with Alexander's salary. According to the database of the league's players association, his contract calls for a base salary of $4,475,000 in 2008. Now this is the NFL. Contracts are not guaranteed. Seattle can cut him and owe him none of that money. It can ask him to restructure his contract, changing the salary. Or it could keep him at the current deal.

Salary isn't the only consideration, though. Signing bonuses are the crux of NFL contracts. Since the future years of a contract aren't guaranteed, the players seek as much up-front money as possible. The athlete gets a lump sum, but the NFL salary-cap accounting procedures allow that lump sum to be pro-rated.

Alexander received an $11.5 million signing bonus in 2006. That total is pro-rated over five years against the team's salary cap at an amount of $2.3 million. The upshot is that only $4.6 million of that $11.5 million has been accounted for under the salary cap. That leaves $6.9 million that must be accounted for even if he does not play for the team again.

If the Seahawks kept him on the current deal, he would count at least $6,775,000 against the team's salary cap in 2008.

Now, the rules do provide some flexibility in how that accounting can occur. If he is cut after June 1 -- or designated a post-June 1 cut -- that total of $6.9 million would be spread over two years with $2.3 million counting against the cap in 2008 and $4.6 million in 2009.

Congratulations to anyone who made it through this whole thing without glazed eyes. I'm now going to put my calculator away and head out to the team's headquarters in Kirkland for coach Mike Holmgren's post-mortem briefing on the season.

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Posted by Southeast Seahawk

12:59 PM, Jan 15, 2008

What is the hit against the cap if a player retires? I'm thinking about Gray. While we need a running back long term, it will not matter much without an dominating O-line. Remember, Walt is getting up there as well and he missed several practices because of shoulder problems. Those aren't going to magically disappear in the off season. Also, with Branch's injury, do we get anything back if he can't go? Not that I'm wishing him anything bad. I would love to see him back full swing next season, but didn't he have a knee problem while in N.E.?

Of couse this goes without saying we need to resign Josh Brown and I think Locklear as well. We should franchise Trufant.

Finally, I really want Holmgren to return. The core is there, we're just missing a piece or two and he's the coach to get us past the divisional round.

Posted by Everett fan

1:18 PM, Jan 15, 2008

Danny - thanks; that was very useful info. And heartwarming, since it suggests that Shaun can indeed be let go.
We need, in no uncertain order, a RB, a TE, one or two OL's, a healthy Tubbs and Bernard, healthy WR's. I don't understand why some were down on Brown and Plackemeier - they did their jobs well. Weaver did well replacing Strong, and should improve.
All in all, we are in the top echelon in the NFC; we just need to get home field advantage over Chi, or NY, or GB, to stay out of the tundra come playoffs.

Posted by seahwkfn

1:24 PM, Jan 15, 2008

Essentially it works out like this:

(1) Keep Alexander (with no restructuring) cap hit ('08) = $6.775 mil

(2) Release Alexander (after June 1 or designate as post June 1st cut and release before) cap hit ('08) =$2.3 mil (The benefit of doing this for '08 is obvious but it will hurt in '09 when that $4.6 has to be accounted for)

(3) Release Alexander (before June 1) cap hit ('08) = $6.9 mil

Essentially, cutting Alexander will only result in an additional cap hit of $125 000 or possibly a savings in '08. Lots for Ruskell to think about.

Posted by Lake Tapps

1:25 PM, Jan 15, 2008

Give Alexander the chance to restructure, you tell him that if he does it gives them a chance to re-sign locklear and go after either Faneca or Lilja. Now he gets to run behind a better line. Also, he speaks frequently on how valuable Ricky was to his development and he'll have a chance to be that to whoever Seattle's next back is. Combine both of those with the fact that they have a chance to win a superbowl and he can be one of the reasons they got there. Everyone wins.

Posted by seaduck

3:26 PM, Jan 15, 2008

Two words: Jonathan Stewart

Posted by Patrick F.

3:51 PM, Jan 15, 2008

Restructure Alexander's deal, but also draft a running back. Let Alexander battle it out, in camp, with Mo Morris and a rookie. Every good team has two capable backs. Jonathan Stewart would be great, but I expect he'll be one of the first backs picked. What the team really needs is a good tight end.

Posted by PapaHawk

4:18 PM, Jan 15, 2008

This is why the NFL is a better league than the NBA. Guys have to earn their money. I think Shaun would be open to restructuring his deal if it means a better line in front of him.
if he isn't, and doesn't "show the coaches something" then you cut him and move on.

I'm very happy that there is a good crop of RB talent coming into the draft this year. No matter who they draft, or when, i think we'll get a contributor. Not necesarily to replace Shaun right away, but to have someone for the future.

Posted by Cameltoes

4:37 PM, Jan 15, 2008

Hmm.. If Alexander is kept under the current contract, isnt the 2008 cap hit only 2.3 million, ie amortized over five years, not $6,775,000?

If the guaranteed money has already been paid, how can you renegotiate the contract to lessen the cap hit?

Posted by seahwkfn

4:42 PM, Jan 15, 2008

Cameltoes - you are forgetting to figure in his base salary for '08 which is in addition to the $2.3 which is the annual portion of his signing bonus. He can decrease his base salary for this upcoming season.

Posted by lythran

4:54 PM, Jan 15, 2008

thats What I was thinking, If he cut his base salary in half we would save 2 wmill this year and 4 mil next year. and this gives him a chance to prove himself. Again :)

Posted by seahwkfn

6:45 PM, Jan 15, 2008

I agree - tell him either he cuts his base to $2 mill or he gets released. Basically give him the choice to take the $2 mill which is likely more then he will get on the open market or become a free agent.

Posted by Jeff

11:55 AM, Jan 16, 2008

Maybe you can tell him to restructure but if he still thinks he's an 1800 yard back add in performance clauses giving him such and such millions that equal his old salary in that event. The hawks wouldn't mind paying it if he rushed for 1800, and we all know it isn't happening. But do such performance clauses also count against the cap?

Posted by hawkfan

7:07 PM, Jan 18, 2008

Cut him and sign jamal lewis, no pussyfootin with that guy

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